Railway magazines

The first enthusiast magazine was The Railway Magazine and in many ways it set a pattern which is still discernible in today's output, although certain highly desirable features have disappeared both from it and from its imitators and competitors. The major change has been the disappearance of information about railways overseas which has tended to be diverted into specialist magazines. There has also been an emergence of a vast literature, which greatly out-distances the mileage and importance of "preserved railways". Lines like the North Norfolk Railway have a definite charm and do enable one to recapture the sounds, smells, and overall aura of steam, or more questionably diesel, in the landscape, but observations on the transfer of an A4 Pacific from one such goldfish bowl to another are tedious in the extreme, and frustrating beyond belief if caught in a tail-back behind such caravans.

Many enthusiasts have an excessive interest in numbers, and the allocations of "individual" locomotives to specific duties. This may be relevant if such locomotives spent their entire careers on such backwaters as the HR Dornoch branch, but are tedious if the only difference is a single digit or a different name. Thus most Halls, black 5s, B1s or S15s are like any other member os such classes: that was the intended fuction of such classes. The products of odd balls like Craven and Fletcher have long since departed. These same enthusiasts treat the demise of each "individual" with a reverence which borders on blasphemy where Barry equates with Purgatory. Thus Steam World is only of marginal interest, and Trains Illustrated suffered from the birth pangs of the disease.

Inevitably this website reflects what its compiler has to hand, and the compiler is very aware that many gems, including some in the slightly despised Steam World, but life is short, and he hopes that some improvement in access to information is better than none.

Many years ago the compiler produced Steam Locomotive Development which covered the period from 1923 to 1967 and at that time he had a key grasp of all forms of literature, with the exception of patents which shold have been covered instead of the more ephemeral literature which will not be named as in retrospect much of it had a beguiling charm. It is difficult to be unkind about Ian Allan who made the possessor of a contract (season ticket to southerners) for commuting to school so much more fun.

Unfortunately, patent literature remains absurdly difficult to inspect. The same is true for much periodical literature. A recent request to obtain volume 8 of the Journal of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers drew a blank from the national library system. This was no fault of the charming ladies who run the Sheringham branch of the Norfolk Library service. This journal contains a seminal paper by Holcroft and another one by Gresley. A recent visit to Robert Humm's emporium in Stanford showed a long run of this journal which had been disposed by the once proud Widnes Public Library for sale. Imagine the outcry if key works in general literature could only be obtained at vast prices second-hand.

Much of the railway literature is badly referenced, or even unreferenced. Michael Rutherford is a key exception. Few are aware that Holcroft was closely involved in the compilation of Railway Engineering Abstracts, and was eager to ensure adequate referencing.

Kevin P. Jones

Updated 2003-04-27